Joe Gale wakes before dawn, his body craving caffeine. A coffee addict, he mainlines his first cup on his way to the shower. He likes it hot, with a splash of milk. No sugar. Joe gets the rest of his morning fix at the Rambler, the diner that is the morning hub of Riverside, Maine. The breakfast-and-lunch joint is owned by Christie Pappas, a Greek goddess he feels fortunate to count among his closest friends. Christie doesn’t offer latte or macchiato, only your basic java, in hefty ceramic mugs.
Joe wasn’t a coffee drinker until he hired on at the Portland Daily Chronicle a decade ago, fresh out of college. In the aimlessness of early adulthood he didn’t realize small-market journalism was an unstable foundation for a career. By the time he figured that out, he was addicted to newspapering, too.
Old-school reporter Paulie Finnegan is responsible for that particular compulsion. The unchallenged dean of the Chronicle’s newsroom swooped the moment Joe came through the door, unschooled in journalism and life. Finnegan took Joe under his crusty wing and taught him what was what. Ten years later Joe can’t imagine another career for himself even though newspapering is going the way of the manual typewriter.
Joe mostly covers cops and courts, but the Chronicle’s staff has been downsized so many times in recent years he’s become a jack of all beats. A couple of recent assignments that looked routine—the redevelopment of an old textile mill, a Downeast murder trial—turned into more than front page news when Joe wound up in the sights of people with lethal weapons. The regularity with which he finds himself smack in the middle of big stories stresses out the newspaper’s owners, who are risk-averse businessmen, not journalists. Whenever the publisher comes downstairs to complain about Joe’s exploits, editor Leah Levin swears she’s doing her best to keep her lead reporter out of trouble. But Joe and Leah both know that danger sometimes goes with the territory. As Paulie Finnegan used to say: If you want to be popular, do something else. A good reporter sees what people don’t want seen, asks questions people don’t want to answer and smells mendacity from a hundred paces.
Of course, since Finnegan dropped dead of a heart attack in 2010, the news biz has been turned upside down. Joe now competes for scoops with Facebookers and Tweeters—people with no journalism training and sometimes hefty axes to grind. But he perseveres, because local journalism isn’t what he does, it’s who he is.
On a newspaper reporter’s salary Joe can’t afford to live in Portland, a handsome revived seaport known for its historic Old Port and world-class restaurants. That’s why he and his dog Louisa live in Riverside, an on-its-way-back mill town that hasn’t the vaguest scent of tourist mecca about it. That’s fine with Joe. He knows the Rambler would be an afterthought if Riverside got too big for its mill town britches, and he relies on the diner for more than morning caffeine loading. It is the place to find out what happened overnight, who’s in trouble and who ought to be. It also provides Joe an opportunity to be in the presence of Christie—her dark hair swept up in a short-order cook’s chignon—when she’s feeding the morning hunger for food and connection.
There’s never been a shortage of women in Joe’s life, but at 34 he remains single. The wrongheaded word on the street is that he’s allergic to commitment. In truth, he suffers from an unrequited crush on Christie. She’s a few years older than he is and the single-parent of a teenage son. She’s also the most amazing woman he’s ever known.
Until recently, Christie was in a steady relationship with a buttoned-down accountant. In the winter of 2015 she broke that off. Recently, she let Joe know she believes their deep connection offers promise. Will they attempt to navigate the tricky line between friendship and romance? For the answer to that question, readers will have to tune in to Truth Beat, due out February 1, 2016.
Get to know Joe Gale, Christie Pappas, the crew at the Rambler and the staff of the Portland Daily Chronicle. Cover Story, the second in the “Joe Gale” Mystery Series, was released this fall. The first book, Quick Pivot, has been out since April, 2015. Both are published by Carina Press, a digital imprint of Harlequin, and are available wherever ebooks are sold.
About Cover Story:
Maine newspaper reporter Joe Gale is at his best when covering the crime beat for the Portland Daily Chronicle. In the dead of winter he heads Downeast to cover the murder trial of fisherman Danny Boothby, charged with burying a filleting knife in the chest of politically well-connected social worker Frank O’Rourke.
O’Rourke held a thankless job in a hard place. Many locals found him arrogant, but say he didn’t deserve to die. Others whisper that O’Rourke got himself killed through his own rogue behavior.
After Joe’s hard-nosed reporting provokes someone to run him off an isolated road, he realizes his life depends on figuring out not only who committed the murder, but who’s stalking him—O’Rourke’s prominent brother, friends or enemies of the dead social worker or members of Boothby’s family. As he digs deeper, Joe uncovers enough secrets and lies to fill a cemetery. He’ll have to solve this one fast, or his next headline may be his own obituary.
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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern time on December 26 for your chance to win a digital copy of COVER STORY. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. One lucky commenter will be randomly selected. Good luck everyone!
Meet the Author
Brenda Buchanan is a former Maine newspaper reporter with a deep reverence for small town journalism. Her Joe Gale Mystery Series features an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the crime and courts beat.
Brenda holds a journalism degree from Northeastern University and a law degree from the University of Maine. She writes and practices law in Portland, where she lives with her spouse.